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Country walk at Sandsend
George Wilkinson has better luck than the fishermen when he heads for a walk along the east coast.
Carpark fishermen, they were all men, extended their rods, after mackerel and bass; we pulled on boots and bathers braved the cold waves in spray and sunshine and the scent of seaweed. Such frivolities were not for us and we set off, passed the Wits End Café, and up the steep Lythe Bank and this little effort brought great views of the two mile sweep of sand to Whitby.
The route then hugs the top of the wooded cliffs. Rose and bramble flowered, bunnies bounced in the fields and each of our steps conjured a whiff of hay and a plume of pollen. A crab claw lay in the grass; out in the blue yonder a fishing boat towed a cloud of gulls.
Said blue yonder rapidly vanished in mist, a sea fret.
We cut across some farmland and puzzled at a strange crop.
A farmer told us it was Jerusalem artichokes grown as cover for pheasants, that is the plants provide a place where they feel safe, pheasant happy. We were pleased that the path had been recently strimmed.
A small valley held a stream, clear despite the rain, and the sound of a waterfall. Then a track took us to the cliffs again, here they are vertical. We chatted to two women by another field of artichokes and one said there were so many pheasants last year that they could have “clubbed them to death”. Perhaps it was the sea air, but I made a joke about the birds driven from the cliff tops to be shot, 300ft below, by bankers in boats. A notice informed that we were on the Mulgrave Estate, the Marquess of Normanby’s 15,000 acres.
And blow me down, on checking out the estate website and that of William Powell Shooting, the estate really do cliff shoots, but the guns are on the beach. Can pheasants surf?
The Cleveland Way took us all the way back. For a while it pulls away from the edge, it takes some precipitous steps down and then the respite of the cinder track bed of the once Middlesbrough to Whitby line. A cutting is a floral delight especially for the bell heather flowering a strong purple, this is not the heather of the moors. Of birds we saw, but only gulls and pigeons or doves. The topography here is much altered by quarrying. The Romans dug cementstone, but most of the damage was done in the 18th and 19th century for alum that was used in the textile industry. I say damage, and certainly the seaward side is harsh but a quarry has greened nicely and is clearly an ecological treasure, a spectacular greened-over amphitheatre, wet in places, with red, iron- rich water.
Back at the car park, in the persistent fret, the fishermen had not had a good day, one small coalfish between them, a species rather like the pollock, that appears in fish shops under various names. Apparently, the sea near the shore was dirty from the rain-washed muck brought down by Sandsend’s streams. The high tide bounced off the seawalls splashing salt on the road and we headed off to Whitby for the obligatory fish and chips.
1: From Pay & Display car park in Sandsend at bottom of Lythe Bank, right uphill on road, mostly pavement.
2: At snickelgate (no sign) and bench on right, into field, by fence to left 25 yards, by fence on right uphill 50 yards (waymark post), right and stay by fence to your right round corner of field (waymark) to your right.
3: Gate (waymark) to cliff/quarry top edge path, steep drops, gate (waymark), gate (waymark) into pasture. Diagonally across field via waymarked post towards farm, fieldgate (waymark) in wire fence, cross field.
4: At fieldgate (3-way fingerpost) before farmyard turn right to skirt farm, stile (waymark) to path, steps downhill into wooded gully, footbridge, left to steps uphill.
5: At wood edge, left to track gently uphill, ignore a left turn, go straight on and keep by old fence to your left.
6: Right to cliff-edge path (fingerpost Cleveland Way), steep drops, ignore forks to left, path leaves cliff edge, path into wood (no waymark), steep steps with handrails, along disused railway track. Path and steps on left downhill before gates and private sign at end of old railway track. Sandsend is accurately named, there is paddling only at the start and the finish of this little walk, so take your chance when the tide is out.
Distance: 3 miles.
General Location: Coast.
Right of Way: Public.
Date walked: July 2012.
Road Route: Via Whitby.
Car Parking: Pay & Display or roadside in Sandsend.
Lavatories: Car park.
Refreshments: Inns and cafés at Sandsend and Whitby.
Tourist & Public Transport Information: Whitby TIC 01723 383636.
Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL27 North York Moors eastern.
Terrain: Cliff top and hinterland.